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What Your Third Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Third-Grade Education


Give your child a smart start with the revised and updated What Your Third Grader Needs to Know

What should your child learn in the third grade? How can you help him or her at home? This book answers these important questions and more, offering the specific shared knowledge that thousands of parents and teachers across the nation have agreed upon for American third graders. Featuring 16 pages of full-color illustrations, a bolder, easier-to-follow format, and a thoroughly ...

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Give your child a smart start with the revised and updated What Your Third Grader Needs to Know

What should your child learn in the third grade? How can you help him or her at home? This book answers these important questions and more, offering the specific shared knowledge that thousands of parents and teachers across the nation have agreed upon for American third graders. Featuring 16 pages of full-color illustrations, a bolder, easier-to-follow format, and a thoroughly updated curriculum, What Your Third Grader Needs to Know, Revised Edition is designed for parents and teachers to enjoy with children.

Hundreds of thousands of children have benefited from the Core Knowledge Series. This revised edition gives a new generation of third graders the advantage they need to make progress in school today, and to establish an approach to learning that will last a lifetime.


• Favorite Poems, old and new, from the traditional Mother Goose rhyme "For Want of Nail" to Lewis Carroll's whimsical poem "The Crocodile"

• Literature from around the world, including Native American stories, African folktales, European fairy tales, classic myths from ancient Greece, stories from ancient Rome, and more

• Learning About Language--the basics of written English, including sentence structure, parts of speech, and a first look at writing a report or letter

• World and American History and Geography--journey down the great rivers of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia, visit ancient Rome, and experience the earliest days of America with the Pilgrims and Native Americans

• Visual Arts--an introduction to masterworks by Rembrandt, Henri Matisse, Mary Cassatt, and others, with full-color reproductions and fun, do-it-yourself activities

• Music--the basics of appreciating, reading, and making music, plus great composers, instruments, and sing-along lyrics for songs such as "A Bicycle Built for Two" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands"

• Math--stimulating lessons ranging from counting money to solving division problems, numbers through 100,000, graphs, and the metric system

• Science--fascinating discussions on the natural world, the cycles of life, the human body and its systems, pollution, and the environment---with accompanying activities and stories about famous scientists such as Copernicus and Alexander Graham Bell.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A striking new format and 32 pages of full-color illustrations highlight the thoroughly revised edition of this popular Core Knowledge series book. Back-to-basics at its best.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385497190
  • Publisher: Doubleday Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/25/2001
  • Series: Core Knowledge Series
  • Edition description: REVISED
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 7.68 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

E. D. Hirsch, Jr., is a professor of English at the University of Virginia and the author of The Schools We Need, The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, and the bestselling Cultural Literacy. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Read an Excerpt

Reading, Writing, and Your Third Grader

The best way to nurture your child's reading and writing abilities is to provide rich literary experiences and find frequent and varied opportunities to work and play with language.

By the end of second grade, children have developed a reading vocabulary of familiar words and can decode the letter-sound patterns of many unfamiliar one- and two- syllable words. During third grade, as they increase their knowledge about words (including the concepts of syllables, prefixes, and suffixes), they put that knowledge to work, decoding unfamiliar multisyllabic words. If a child has not mastered the skill of decoding simple words, that practice should continue.

By third grade, the mental process of turning letters into sounds should be nearly automatic. This year, children focus more on meaning as they read. Their reading vocabulary expands tremendously, as does their ability to read longer and more complex literature. They read for information and begin to use nonfiction reference books like children's dictionaries and encyclopedias. They learn the distinction between fiction and nonfiction, and they read and enjoy longer and more complicated "chapter books."

In third grade, children continue to learn about language as they write it: identifying parts of speech, properly using punctuation, and recognizing sentence types. They begin to shape their own writing, understanding how paragraphs relate in a larger whole and exerting more control over vocabulary and structure.

Parents can do many things to help their children reach these new levels of understanding language:

Read aloud to your child. While third graders are beginning to read on their own, they also still enjoy listening. Continue reading aloud, both fiction and nonfiction, even as your child becomes an independent reader.

Have your child read aloud to you.

Visit the library with your child.

Encourage your child to write letters or keep a journal.

Play word games with your child. Scrabble, Hangman, Boggle, and other popular games that involve spelling, word recognition, and vocabulary development combine fun with language facility.

Find language wherever you go. Use road signs, advertising, magazines--the written word all around you--to keep your child thinking and talking about language.

Support your child's interests through reading. When your child shows an interest in something special-insects or baseball, Davy Crockett or ballet-go together to the library to find more to read on that subject.

The more a child reads and writes, the more fluent in language that child becomes. By using these strategies, you communicate the enjoyment of reading and writing and you help build the foundation for learning that will last a lifetime.

Suggested Resources

The American Heritage First Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin). Simple words, clear definitions, and ample visuals provide a helpful introduction to how a dictionary works.

E. D. Hirsch, Jr., A First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (Houghton Mifflin). Some entries may be difficult for a third grader, but this book can serve as a single-volume encyclopedia of American culture.

Macmillan Dictionary for Children (Simon & Schuster). This dictionary offers 35,000 expanded entries with easy-to-read pronunciations, synonym lists, and color illustrations.

The World Book Student Discovery Encyclopedia (World Book Inc.). This multivolume reference is structured like a standard encyclopedia but designed and written so third graders can look things up and read entries easily.

Educators Publishing Service (EPS) is a mail-order company with good teacher-created resources including basic phonics, spelling, vocabulary development, reading comprehension, grammar, and composition skills. Write to EPS, 31 Smith Place, Cambridge, MA 02138-1089, call 800-435-7728, or visit



This selection of poetry, stories, and myths can be read aloud or, in many cases, read independently by third graders. We hope you'll take it as a starting point in your search for more literature for your child to read and enjoy.

We have included both traditional and modern poetry. Poems can be silly, written for the sheer enjoyment of rhythm and rhyme, or they can be serious. Rhythm and rhyme make poetry the perfect literature for a third grader to memorize.

The stories selected here include classic folktales from many cultures and excerpts from great works of children's literature. Some of them have been chosen as literary links to topics elsewhere in the book. In the case of book-length works, we can provide only short excerpts, hoping that you and your child will read the rest on your own.

This book continues the effort, begun in previous books, to share the wealth of classical mythology. Since third graders learn about ancient Rome, several myths were chosen to convey a sense of Roman history. Likewise we offer some Norse mythology. Parents can coordinate readings about literature and history. Age-old myths also give parents the opportunity to discuss traditional virtues such as friendship, courage, and honesty.

Suggested Resources

For a frequently updated list of recommended children's books thematically linked to the subjects offered in this book and others in the Core Knowledge Series, consult Resources to Build On on the Core Knowledge Foundation Web site, at

Favorite Poems Old and New, selected by Helen Ferris (Doubleday). One volume with more than seven hundred poems, including many perennial favorites.

William F. Russell, Classic Myths to Read Aloud (Crown Publishers). This book retells Greek and Roman myths in language with a suitably old-fashioned feel.

Spider, Cricket, and Muse. Colorful magazines, with intelligent material, that give children plenty of good monthly reading experiences with no advertising. Spider, for children aged six to nine, and Cricket, for children aged nine to fourteen, include stories, activities, and puzzles. Muse, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, offers science articles for children aged eight to fourteen. To subscribe to any of these, write the Cricket Magazine Group, Box 7499, Red Oak, IA 51591, call (800) 827-0227, or visit

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction to the Revised Edition xxi
General Introduction to the Core Knowledge Series xxiii
I. Language and Literature
Reading, Writing, and Your Third Grader 3
Suggested Resources 4
Literature 5
Introduction 5
Suggested Resources 5
Poetry 6
Adventures of Isabel 6
By Myself 8
Catch a Little Rhyme 8
Dream Variations 9
Knoxville, Tennessee 9
The Crocodile 10
Trees 11
For Want of a Nail 11
Jimmy Jet and His TV Set 12
First Thanksgiving of All 13
Eletelephony 14
Father William 14
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 16
Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp 21
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves 25
The Hunting of the Great Bear 29
Gone Is Gone 32
The Little Match Girl 34
The People Could Fly 36
Three Words of Wisdom 38
William Tell 39
The River Bank 41
Mythology 44
Gods, Heroes, and Tricksters from Scandinavia 44
Norse Gods and Goddesses 44
The World Tree and the End of the World 45
Loki and the Gifts for the Gods 45
Myths from Ancient Greece and Rome 47
Jason and the Golden Fleece 47
Perseus and Medusa 49
Cupid and Psyche 51
The Sword of Damocles 53
Damon and Pythias 53
Androcles and the Lion 55
Horatius at the Bridge 56
Learning About Literature 58
Biography and Autobiography 58
Fiction and Nonfiction 58
Sayings and Phrases 59
Actions speak louder than words 59
His bark is worse than his bite 59
Beat around the bush 59
Beggars can't be choosers 60
Clean bill of health 60
Cold shoulder 60
A feather in your cap 60
Last straw 61
Let bygones be bygones 61
One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel 61
On its last legs 61
Rule the roost 62
The show must go on 62
Touch and go 62
When in Rome, do as the Romans do 62
Learning About Language 63
Let's Write a Report 63
Let's Write a Letter 65
What's a Sentence? 65
What Kind of Sentence Is It? 67
Parts of Speech 67
Nouns 68
Adjectives 68
Verbs 68
Adverbs 69
Pronouns 69
More About Verbs 70
Let's Punctuate! 70
Just Say No Once 71
Prefixes and Suffixes 72
They Sound Alike, but They're Different 73
Shorten Up with Abbreviations 74
II. Geography and History
Introduction 77
Suggested Resources 77
World Geography 78
Look at the Legend 79
Great Rivers of the World 79
Rivers of Asia 81
Rivers of Africa 83
Rivers of Europe 84
Rivers of Australia 84
Rivers of South America 85
Rivers of North America 86
World History 88
Ancient Rome 88
The Legend of How Rome Began 89
Religion, Roman Style 90
Rome's Powerful Location 91
Rome's Early Republic 91
Who's Got Class? 92
Rome and Its Provinces 92
Latin Lives! 93
Conquering Carthage 93
Hannibal Keeps His Promise 95
The Final Defeat of Carthage 96
All Roads Lead to Rome 96
Julius Caesar Shows the Pirates Who's Boss 97
Pompey, Caesar's Rival 98
Crossing the Rubicon 98
Caesar Meets Cleopatra 99
Pride Comes Before a Fall 100
All for Love--and Power 100
Octavian Becomes Augustus Caesar 101
Pax Romana 102
Downtown in the Roman Empire 103
Where's the Spaghetti? 104
Roman Sports: Play at Your Own Risk 105
Let's Go to the Races! 106
Pompeii: A City Frozen in Time 107
A Long Line of Emperors 109
Nero: Not a Hero 109
Christians During the Days of Ancient Rome 110
The Beginning of the End for the Empire 111
Constantine Sees a Burning Cross 111
Constantinople: A City Full of Art 112
The Fall of the Roman Empire 112
Justinian's Code: A Gift from the Byzantine Empire 114
The Vikings: Raiders and Traders from the North 114
The Long, Dark Winter Night 114
Who Were the Vikings? 116
Good Guys or Bad Guys? 116
Men of the Sea 117
Eric the Red 118
Leif the Lucky 118
American History 120
Crossing the Land Bridge 120
The Inuits 120
The Mound Builders 122
Cliff Dwellers: The Anasazi 123
The Pueblo People 123
The Apaches and the Navajos 124
Eastern Woodland Peoples 126
A Day with Little Thunder 126
Early Morning 127
The Day's Work 127
Let the Games Begin 129
The Chief Sachem Speaks 129
Early Explorers in North America 130
A "New World" for Europeans 130
A Fountain of Youth? 131
De Soto's Cruel Quest 132
The First Lasting European Settlement 133
In Search of the Cities of Gold 134
Spanish Missions 135
Up North 136
Seeking a Northwest Passage 136
The Sad Story of Henry Hudson 137
Fur Trade in New France 139
English Colonies in North America 140
Thirteen Colonies 140
Jamestown: Dreaming Big 142
Smith Lays Down the Law 142
The Powhatans and the English 144
The Starving Time 145
A Cash Crop 146
Ladies and Laws 146
The Arrival of the Africans 146
The Pilgrims at Plymouth 147
The Mayflower Compact 148
A "Wild and Savage" Land 149
The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags 149
Peace and Plenty: Thanksgiving 150
Massachusetts Bay: The Puritans 151
People of the Book 152
Roger Williams and Rhode Island 152
Anne Hutchinson 153
One People's Prosperity, Another's Peril 154
Refuge for Other Religions: Maryland and Pennsylvania 155
A Refuge for Catholics 156
New Netherland 157
Charles's Carolina 158
A Debtor's Tale 159
The Slave Trade 159
III. Visual Arts
Introduction 163
Suggested Resources 163
Caught in the Light 164
Out of the Shadows 165
A Wall Filled with Light 166
Filling a Space 167
Speaking of Space 170
Design 170
Using Line to Design 171
Lines, Shapes, and Colors Move 172
Drawing with Scissors 174
A Very Formal Room 174
Picturing an Idea 175
Can You Feel It? 176
A Quilt That Tells a Story 177
Over and Under with Wool and Thread 178
A Painting Made Without Brushes or Paint 179
IV. Music
Introduction 183
Suggested Resources 183
Elements of Music 184
Reading and Writing Musical Notes 184
Reading and Writing Rhythm 186
Keeping Time 188
Rests 189
Loud and Soft 189
Let's Join the Orchestra 190
Percussion and Strings 190
The Brass Family 191
The Woodwind Family 193
All Together Now 194
Composers and Their Music 195
Musical Connections 195
Tchaikovsky: Music That Brings Strong Feeling 195
The Story of Swan Lake 196
John Philip Sousa: The March King 198
Aaron Copland: Making American Music 199
Some Songs for Third Graders 200
Alouette 200
Hey-Ho, Nobody Home 200
Li'l Liza Jane 201
Down in the Valley 202
Polly Wolly Doodle 203
Simple Gifts 203
This Little Light 204
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands 204
My Bonnie 205
The Sidewalks of New York 205
The Man on the Flying Trapeze 206
In the Good Old Summertime 206
A Bicycle Built for Two 207
You're a Grand Old Flag 208
America 208
V. Mathematics
Introduction 211
Suggested Resources 211
Multiplication--Part One 212
Multiplication Words 212
Multiplying Vertically 212
Showing Multiplication 212
The Multiplication Table 214
Square Numbers and Square Roots 215
Parentheses, Multiplying Three Numbers 216
Division--Part One 217
Operations 217
An Example of Division 217
Solving Division Problems 218
Division Words 219
Division Facts 219
Division Rules for 0 and 1 221
Division Word Problems 222
Picturing Multiplication and Division Facts 224
Picturing Multiplication and Division Facts with Blank Spaces 224
Division and Fractions 225
Numbers Through Hundred Thousands 227
Thousands 227
Reading and Writing Four-Digit Numbers 228
Ten Thousands and Hundred Thousands 229
Expanded Form 230
Counting with Thousands 230
Skip-Counting with Thousands 231
Rounding Numbers 231
Comparing and Ordering Thousands 232
Working with Numbers 233
Equations and Inequalities 233
Ordinal Numbers Through One-Hundredth 233
Using Number Lines 234
Addition and Subtraction 235
Column Addition 235
Mental Addition 236
More Mental Addition Techniques 236
Estimating Sums and Differences 237
More Than One Operation 238
Mental Subtraction 239
Sums and Differences of Four-Digit Numbers 240
Adding with Thousands 240
Subtraction: Regrouping More Than Once 242
Subtracting Across Zeros 242
Four-Digit Subtraction
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